Parties play to the dark side of America for votes

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Usha Nellore
If I had not heard it on the radio one morning driving to work, I would not have believed it.  Ted Strickland, governor of Ohio, supporter of Barack Obama, speaking to a crowd at a rally in Chillicothe, Ohio, shouted enthusiastically and emphatically: "Barack Obama is a strong Christian family man!"

Strickland was reassuring rural Ohio voters that Republican vilifications about Obama’s middle name being Hussein or the fear mongering on the Internet about Obama being a Manchurian candidate or an Arab or a Muslim was patently false. He told gun owners that their right to keep and bear arms would remain safe in an Obama administration. 
 
Considering that a majority of people in this country are Christians by birth and that the divorce rate among them has reached astronomical proportions, I find it ridiculous that Christianity is automatically tied to family values, redemption and respect for marriage. Despite this reality, Democrats have fallen into the Republican trap, defending their candidate's Christian credentials to woo the votes of those who fear Islam.     

 
Appearing with Rev. Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church on TV, Obama confessed to the legions of watchers to being saved by Jesus.  While a paragraph is more than adequate to endorse a candidate, the New Yorker magazine recently sang a lengthy paean to Obama as endorsement. It expressed nary a doubt about his confession and whether  it undermines the principle of separation of church and state for which the elite establishment waves its banner with blistering attacks against the "Pledge of Allegiance" or prayer in the schools. 
 
The Democrats are determined not to let the Republicans cash in the religious prejudices of this country for votes. They are proving that Obama can play the "I am saved by Jesus" theme as well as the next Republican.
 
Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and atheists languish in the periphery of this fight. When an older white woman approached John McCain at a rally and said she read Obama is an Arab, McCain, faced with her disgraceful interruption, sought to reassure her. He told her Obama is not an Arab and that he is a decent family man and citizen. 
 
While the Republican party may think that this was a noble gesture on the part of McCain toward his opponent and that McCain was putting to rest the "Arab" bugaboo for Obama, my Muslim friends are not so thankful. They see in McCain’s colloquy with the white female voter a disingenuous acceptance of Arab demonization.
 
Obama supporters defend his emphasis on his Christian faith as a necessity to ward off Republican canards about his non existent Arab or Muslim connection.  They argue if the truth that Obama is a Christian is his strength in the heartland of America, no insult is intended toward Muslims when he plays to this strength.
 
Intellectuals for Obama, the very people who are for gay marriage, open borders, science, technology, evolution and progressive thinking, see nothing regressive in this approach. To them Obama’s policy positions more than make up for the religious side dance he must perform to biased voters. Republicans who care not a whit about non-Christian minorities enjoy poking Obama in the foot so this side dance takes up more time.

All this ignominy is happening against the backdrop of every religion being represented in our country's meritocracy. Go to the number one hospital in America, Johns Hopkins, where some of the most gifted doctors are Hindus and Muslims. If a talented Muslim doctor can save you from the ravages of a rare disease and you are a devout Christian, would you say no? If a gifted Hindu writes a great novel, would you refuse to buy his book because you believe Jesus died on the cross for you and he doesn't believe the same? 

We need every smart person we can get, regardless of color or creed to keep this country running and competitive on the world stage.  Obama, without shame or guilt, should be able to acknowledge Islam, his father's religion.  That is his privilege and his right and no Christian theologian or voter should cast aspersions on his heritage. 

And there is only one right answer to the question that the older white woman posed to McCain: "No Ma'am, Obama is not an Arab, but even if he were you should not worry because Arab Americans are our good friends and neighbors."

Usha Nellore is a writer living in Bel Air. Reach her at unellu@gmail.com.



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